It is an indictment of the metal climate today that albums of the caliber of Feeding Hell’s Furnace and Contra Rationem have gone mostly unnoticed amidst the never-ending flux of Incantation copycats, pretentious occultists that mistake C-grade horror movie atmosphere for competent songwriting, and war metal guidos. Bands today are content to lift surface aesthetics without adequate contemplation of what went into making the originals such path-setters. There are competent musicians – or should we call them technicians instead? – all around, no doubt, but one wonders how the overwhelming absence of any real meaning to their music forever escapes them. The lack of discrimination from fans only serves to make this a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle.
This is not to suggest that every death metal band from the old days consciously tapped into higher-plane abstractions. Some may have been simply out to make a loud noise, as is always the case with impetuous youth. But many also displayed an innate, elegantly expressed understanding of the true nature of death metal. Death metal, as seen through their eyes, was the assembling of order from chaos, but also, through the lyrics’ active confrontation with the matter of life and death, a harbinger and a celebration of the coming dissolution and the return to primordial nothingness. In realizing this duality in all existence, death metal looked to escape artificial constraints, even actively sought razing them to the ground and embracing mortality as liberation through themes of Satan and gore. In an era when distractions were relatively fewer in number than what they are today, death metal musicians may have had more time to ponder over these matters and to care more intimately about how the music they were creating tied in with their greater worldview.
Drawn and Quartered, and Centurian, veterans from opposite sides of the Atlantic, remind us of what death metal should have always been. Centurian are influenced in equal parts by the bludgeoning power of post-Legion Deicide and the middle era Morbid Angel-inspired Polish school of blasting death metal that isn’t without a sense of groove. Riffs are adamantly symmetrical in nature, with each phrase having its mirror complement to make up the whole of any one arrangement. While this introduces an air of predictability to progressions on a micro-level, much like the bulk of Krisiun‘s music for instance, songs – and these are songs in the real sense of the word – have a full, breathing, roundness to them. There are no loose threads to be found here; Contra Rationem is a classic example of death metal in tension and release.
Drawn And Quartered‘s sound has seen a few changes over the last twenty years. Starting off as a darker variant of Cannibal Corpse, then gradually incorporating more Immolation-style twisted dissonance in songwriting, Feeding Hell’s Furnace represents the most mature effort by this underrated band yet. Drawn And Quartered are firmly placed in the dark death metal camp of North America. Song tempos are more varied than ever before, and a noticeable, slow-burning Incantation influence has slid into the band’s writing but such is the control over dynamics and atmosphere on display here that the attentive listener will not mistake it for just another clone. Drawn And Quartered take their place among old bands like Imprecation and Deteriorot still playing dark, majestic death metal that sounds the part without submitting to gimmicky bells and whistles.